The Parable of the Rich Fool: April 8th 2021

Deuteronomy 9:1-10:22

The Lord was going to fight for the Israelites against the formidably tall Anakites. However, this was not because of the righteousness of the Israelites; it was because their enemies were wickedly evil. Similarly, Jesus did not die for us because of any righteousness on our behalf for we are also ‘a stiff-necked, disobedient people’ (v.6). Jesus died to destroy the works of the devil. He died to conquer the wicked kingdom that had taken up residence in the world. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners and gave us righteousness by his death on the cross. He redeemed us with the sacrifice of his perfect blood.

Moses recalled how the Lord wanted to destroy the Israelites after they had made an idol to worship – the Golden Calf. He had left them for forty days and forty nights while he received the two tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments, ‘inscribed with the finger of God’ (v.10). Moses went through real physical hardships. He hadn’t eaten bread or drunk water for forty days before he was horrified by the idol worship of the Israelites. He immediately started another fast. He didn’t eat or drink anything for eighty days, forty of which were spent prostrated before the Lord. He must have been supernaturally sustained by the presence of God. Moses gives a great example of the benefit of fasting. By fasting for so long, he persuaded God not to kill his brother, Aaron, and the rest of the Israelite nation. If we want God to answer a specific prayer, fasting is a tried and tested way of bringing us closer to God. It is hugely beneficial to fast just one day a week – just drinking water. Consult with a doctor beforehand if you have any underlying medical conditions. Fasting regularly for 24-36 hours also sharpens our minds, brings us closer to suffering people in the world and delivers some real health benefits – normalising our sugar metabolism and fighting off type 2 diabetes.

It must have been heart breaking for Moses to come down from the blazing mountain, full of positivity, hope and faith to find his people had so quickly gone astray. He deliberately smashed the stone tablets that been inscribed by God. He probably didn’t think his fellow Israelites deserved them. The same shock happened to Peter, James and John when they come down the mountain after the Transfiguration. They had briefly experienced the glory of God but, as soon as they got back to society, they are exposed to failure, with the other disciples failing to exorcise a demon (Luke 9:37-40).

Moses gave an example of how to dispose of a cursed object – in this case, the Golden Calf. He crushed it, ground it to powder and threw the dust into a stream (v.21). Exorcists recommend that if we have to dispose of cursed objects, they must be burnt outside (preferably after being sprinkled with holy water) while we pray intently for protection and then the ashes must be thrown into running water.

The Israelites were repeat offenders at making God really angry with them at: Horeb, ‘Taberah, at Massah and at Kibroth Hattaavah’ (v.22). They repeatedly rebelled and didn’t trust or obey God. Moses successfully interceded for them by reminding God of the promises he had made to the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and pointing out that God’s reputation would be damaged if he killed them all. God listened to Moses. God loves a difficult challenge. It would have been too easy to conquer the Promised Land with an obedient and trusting people. He showed his greatness by helping wicked, stubborn and sinful people to do it.

God wrote the Ten Commandments on a second set of stone tablets to keep in the ark of the covenant. I always thought the Ten Commandments were written on rather dull grey stones with rounded tops. It turns out, according to ancient Jewish tradition, that they were rectangular and written on blue sapphire. Blue is God’s favourite colour. The original sapphire tablets may have been from God’s throne and the second set that Moses chiselled out came from a convenient sapphire mine that God told Moses was under his tent. The writing was engraved through the stones, visible on both sides but miraculously legible right to left on both sides. https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1114513/jewish/What-Did-the-Tablets-Look-Like.htm

The tribe of Levi had been set apart to: ‘carry the ark of the covenant’, to ‘stand before the Lord to minister‘ and to ‘pronounce blessings in his name’ (10:8).

Moses gave us a perfect summary of the nature of God: ‘For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing’ (v.17-18).

We are called on to be hospitable and generous to migrants and refugees. We are encouraged to never neglect orphans and widows and prioritise them over empty religious practices: ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’ (James 1:27).

Notice that Moses acknowledges that there are other gods and other lords. Ancient peoples did not make up all the demonic entities that they tried to appease with blood sacrifices. There were dozens of demonic minor gods around the world with preternatural powers. However, our Lord God is ruler of all of them as he originally created all the other pretenders to his throne – before they rebelled. God loves everything he created – even the demons. However, they still face justice and have chosen eternal separation from him. God loves them so much He respects their free will to have chosen their own final destiny.

Moses acknowledged that the normal type of circumcision is not producing obedient people who love God. He called on the Israelites to ‘circumcise your hearts‘ and not to be ‘stiff-necked any longer‘. There are billions of stiff-necked unbelievers in the world today, even though God has written his rules on our hearts. We need to pray for him to soften our hearts of stone and make us realise we have a heart of flesh.

God had been good to the Israelites. There were now over two million of them about to enter the promised land ‘as numerous as the stars in the sky’ (v.22), they had prospered and exceedingly multiplied from their seventy forefathers who had gone down into Egypt.

Luke 12:1-34

Jesus was so popular that people in the massive crowd trampled on one another. He warned us against hypocrisy (v.1) and predicted today’s tabloid press that loves to dig up the dirt on celebrities, particularly those that have an ‘holier than thou’ attitude, ‘there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known (V.2).

It is always best to be careful about what we say as the devil will remember our unkind words and use them to prosecute us. The devil can’t read bad thoughts going through our minds – only God can do that – but as soon as we verbalise something, it can be used in evidence against us. Best to vocally praise God as much as we can throughout the day.

Jesus told us to fear God not men, ‘Fear him who, after the killing of the body has power to throw you into hell’ (v.5). Humans are the pride of his creation. He has tattooed our name on the palm of his hand and numbered all the hairs on our head. We are ‘worth more than many sparrows (v.7).

We must always be proud to acknowledge Jesus in front of men (v.8). Jesus gave a very worrying warning about blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. It can never be forgotten. If we count ourselves as a Christian we are in the clear, we haven’t committed this sin. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is defined as ‘final impenitence’: ”blasphemy’ does not properly consist in offending against the Holy Spirit in words; it consists rather in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of the the cross” https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/unforgivable-sin-1164. Demons can never be forgiven, because even though they knew God face to face, they rejected him and persisted in impenitence.

Jesus told us not to worry when facing synagogues as the Holy Spirit will teach us what to say (v.12). I had prepared some notes when I stood in front of 5,000 people at a union conference to say it would be wrong to condone abortion. However, the chair person just turned my microphone off. So much for freedom of speech.

Jesus refuted the prosperity gospel with a clear warning against greed, ‘“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist on the abundance of his possessions”’ (12:15). God will give us what we need, not always what we want. Greed is responsible for most of the mess we have made of this planet: wars, famines, pollution and destitution. There are enough resources for everybody. Economists are wrong to think only a few can prosper at the expense of the poor. The antidote to greed is generosity. We must learn to be cheerful givers. ‘Sell your possessions and give to the poor’ (v.33). I have spent some time during lockdown emptying items from the loft (‘where the moth destroys’ (v.33)). It’s amazing how dusty, dirty and shabby stored items are when they are dragged back out into the light. The items in our loft possessed my family, rather than us possessing them. They were stopping us from moving and downsizing to a smaller house, they were taking up our time and energy as we shuffled them around and they were a fire hazard. I am completely sold on minimalism. The fewer items I possess, the more time I have to spend on projects such as this one.

The parable of the rich fool (v.14-21) inspired me to give up my secular job. I worked out that I had stored exactly enough money to give me a pension, through the grace of God. No more, no less. I could have stayed in my well-paid job and built bigger financial barns but I could have died the very next week and then ‘who will get what you have prepared for yourself?(v.20). I should have left earlier and relied on God to supply my daily bread. However, I am still relying on him to prevent the stock market from crashing too badly, which would evaporate my pension. I can now spend every day building barns of knowledge within me, reading the rich word of God. Halleluiah.

It’s very difficult not to worry about our lives and how to provide for our families. Looking back, I can see that God provided everything I needed at exactly the time I needed it and so, I must assume he will continue to do this. We can’t add a single hour to our life by worrying (v.25). In fact, worry and stress is likely to take years off our lives. Praying in Tongues can help massively by building us up internally and distracting us from our issues. Hand over control of your mouth to the Holy Spirit, whenever you are in a stressful situation. You will feel the benefit.

We need to seek the kingdom of our Father first and He will then look after all our practical, daily needs. ‘Our Father, give us our daily bread’. This great prayer doesn’t say, ‘Give me a year’s worth of bread, so I can store it in the freezer’. It encourages us to come daily to the Father and ask for our needs.

As we receive our Father’s generosity from his inexhaustible supply in heaven, it encourages us to reach out in generosity to others, particularly orphans and the widows.

Jesus told us not to worry. Cue a great song to practice one’s whistling to.

Psalm 42:6b-11

King David is still having issues, ‘my soul is downcast within me’ (v.6b).

We respond to people’s testimonies when we see that God’s love and care has touched someone emotionally deep inside them themselves: ‘Deep calls to deep’, (v.7).

He acknowledges that God is still his rock (v.9) even when he feels forgotten.

David speaks to his own soul and encourages it to hope in God.

David has full confidence, ‘for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God’ (v.11).

This reminds me of ‘doubting’ Thomas’ exclamation to the risen Jesus, ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28).

‘Your Eye is the Lamp of your Body’: April 7th 2021

Deuteronomy 6:1-8:20

Here we have the famous command to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength’ (Deut. 6:1-8:20). The Bible is the greatest love story of all time. We love God because He loved us first. The Jews were instructed to write the Lord’s commandments on the door-frames of their houses and on their gates. Attaching something to the front of your house that proclaims your faith is a great way of bearing witness to our religion. Jews do this today by fixing a mezuzah to the side of the front door. A mezuzah is a decorative case containing a piece of parchment inscribed with passages from Deuteronomy (6:4-9 and 11:13-21). I thought this was a wonderful idea and joined in by attaching a mezuzah to my front door-post, even though I was Christian. My children were of course horrified and begged me to remove it, particularly after a pizza delivery driver implied that he hated it and interrogated me about which religion I actually belonged to. He gave the impression that the next pizza he delivered would come through the letterbox on fire. Unfortunately it is quite common for a mezuzah, and the home to which it is attached, to be vandalised by people who oppose the people of God.

The Jews were told to ‘not forget the Lord’ (v.12) in their conquered territory as they enjoyed all the good things that other people had built. When people are rich and well-fed, they tend to get complacent and lazy. They forget to praise and thank God. What can God do to overfed, prosperous and proud people in the West to get them to pay attention to him? People mistakenly think that it is their own power, effort and strength that has given them prosperity. However, everything is from God, ‘for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth (8:18). God has to take the shackles off the devil and allow illness, cancer and a global pandemic to hit us to make us remember we can’t live independently. We should know in our hearts ‘that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you (8:5).

We must never ‘follow other Gods’ for the ‘Lord is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you’ (v.14-15). We must not treat celebrities, sports, careers or created objects as idols to be adored and worshipped. God gave the Israelites a clear warning that if they bowed down to other Gods he would destroy them (8:19-20).

The other nations were ‘seven times stronger’ (7:1) than the Israelites but God would deliver them over to them. It sounds ruthless to our modern ears when the Israelites are instructed to destroy their enemies totally, to make no treaty with them and not to intermarry. But God knows the future. He knew that even Solomon, the wisest man in the whole of human history, would be snared and brought down by his non-Jewish wives.

The Jews were confirmed as ‘people holy to the Lord your God’ and ‘his treasured possession‘ (v.6).

The Lord made amazing promises to Israel if they carefully followed his laws: ‘None of your men or women will be childless’ (v.14), ‘The Lord will keep you free from every disease’ (v.15).

Just as God used creatures such as flies, frogs and locusts to plague the Egyptians, he promises to ‘send the hornet’ (v.20) to finish off any hiding enemy survivors.

God wisely planned for the Israelites to conquer the land little by little (v.22). He is full of common sense. It would have been too overwhelming to take over an entire region in one go.

Jesus quoted 8:3 to the devil after his 40 days of temptation. It is written: ‘man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord’. Not only did God feed the Israelites with manna for forty years, he ensured that their clothes did not wear out or their feet swell (8:4). God cared for the practicalities of daily desert life as well as their spirituality.

Luke 11:33-34

The goal of the Holy Spirit living within us is to gradually sanctify us so that our whole body will be eventually full of light. He slowly drives out all of the darkness, just as God did not let the Israelites conquer the promised land in one go (Deut. 7:22). If all the evil was driven out of us in one go, a vacuum might be created inside us – which could allow even worse evil to flood in and take up residence within us. As evil is gradually drained from us, we need to fill up the conquered territory inside us with more of the Holy Spirit and the word of God. Our promised land, full of milk and honey, is within us. We must kick the evil out of us with no mercy and not leave any surviving remnants.

Jesus said that our eyes are the lamp of the body (v.34). Many exorcists report that people’s eyes give away when they are possessed by evil. Either the normal look in their eyes is suddenly replaced by one of intense evil and rage (caused by an ‘apertus’ demon) or people go into a trance with their eyes closed and their eyeballs roll upwards (an ‘aperti’ demon) (see Fortea, p. 88).

We need to avoid looking at the wrong type or movies or magazines. We can commit adultery just by looking the wrong way. Let us look at wonderful holy things with our eyes to fill our body with inner light and look away from evil things. Unholy people successfully manage to do this the other way around. Many avoid reading the word of God or going to church to prevent light flooding into their darkness. Dark deeds are done in dark places. They prefer darkness to light, they prefer death to life. The Easter Vigil service is a wonderful demonstration of light. Everyone lights their own candle, from the flame of Easter candle, gradually turning a dark church into a blaze of light. The first thing that is done before any church service is to turn all the lights on and also light some candles for good measure. We proclaim that Jesus is the light of the world.

Jesus was going to eat with a Pharisee but before the meal was even served, there was a strong rebuke from Jesus. He said that we must not get so caught up in carrying out religious practices that we ‘neglect justice and the love of God’ (v.42).

Jesus said to ‘give what is inside the dish to the poor and everything will be clean for you’ (v.41). The tradition of tithing to a church helps us to separate us from a love of money, which means we are more likely to give to the poor. Tithing is an Old Testament concept and Christians are not bound by it. A Catholic priest would never instruct his parishioners to tithe but we are expected to support our churches with a realistic proportion of our income. Our priests and pastors do have to buy groceries and the church has got to be heated. God is not a debtor to any man. Whatever we give away to the needy, he will repay more generously. Maybe not in cash, but in love.

Jesus warned the teachers of the Law not to ‘load people down with burdens they can hardly carry’ (v.46) without helping. It is important to teach without hypocrisy and reflect on how we personally needed supernatural help to escape from a mire of sin. Jesus came to give us freedom from sin, not to convict us and condemn us. It is very easy to pontificate that practices such as abortion should be made illegal but that would load people with burdens they can hardly carry. To protect unborn children, we need to all join in wholeheartedly with our love, finances and time to support all pregnant ladies, new mothers and adoption services – not criticise from the side-lines.

To break ranks for a minute, I think this also relates to traditional teaching on contraception. Celibate teachers of the law may not be in the best place to advise legitimately married couples on how to space out their children. The approved ‘natural method’ is as good as not lifting ‘one finger to help them (v.46). I fully accept that it is sinful for a married couple to vow never to have children or to use a method of contraception that prevents a fertilised egg from implanting. However, I can’t personally see a big issue with married couples using condoms to space out the timing of their children or try to avoid having too many of them. My wife and I were habitual condom users when we were first married – we were Anglicans at the time – and my first child still came along. My God is the God who split the Red Sea, He isn’t going to let a little bit of rubber get in the way if He decrees it’s time to have a child.

Jesus referred to the ‘blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary’ (v.51). In non-canonical writings, it is stated that Zechariah, the Father of John the Baptist, was killed by Herod’s troops during the slaughter of the innocent baby boys after Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:16-18) or he was killed for not removing Mary, Mother of Jesus, from the prayer area reserved for virgins even though she was pregnant (https://detroitcatholic.com/news/gary-michuta/did-john-the-baptist-s-father-die-a-martyr). John the Baptist had been born more publicly than Jesus, and his father had not escaped to Egypt. It is likely that Zechariah would have been interrogated as to where his baby child was.

The experts in law removed the key to wisdom and knowledge: The Holy Spirit. As baptized Christians, we have the key to knowledge living inside the temple of our bodies. The water of baptism not only makes us clean on the outside. By the living presence of the Holy Spirit within us, we start to become clean and full of light on the inside.

Psalm 42:1-6a

This is a beautiful psalm that we can sing along to:

Our soul thirsts for God, the living God to give us life. No matter what we try to distract ourselves with: sex, money, possessions, or power we will never be happy until we give up on our own efforts and hand over control to God.

God loves us and wants to set us free from the bondage of sin. Sin and slavery cling to us, like a sliver of cellophane stuck to our hands that is virtually impossible to shake off. However, the Holy Spirit can purify us from within.

Looking at the state of the world around us, many people could ask: ‘Where is your God?’ (v.3).

The last time I was downcast, it was because an evil spirit was attacking me. God had allowed this to occur because I was being lazy in my faith, attending a non-dynamic church and spiritually treading water. ‘As a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you (Deut. 8:5). I found a new church and began to regularly worship with ‘shouts of joy and thanks giving among the festive throng (v.4). As I worshipped, I felt evil leave and I was cured.

We have to show the world that God is above us, around us and within us. We need to prove this by walking with the Holy Spirit and performing great acts in the name of Jesus.

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